Open Hardware Summit Nails: Water Marbling (success with solid colors)

My theme for Open Hardware Summit 2015 was rainbow — hair, nails, and dress.


I also tried drawing with the white nail marker (on my right hand, pictured below) — here are some “color associations”, like apple for red. However, I think overall that added too much busyness to the nails, so I didn’t do it on my left hand (above).


For the process, I used $22 of nail polish from Target. The Sally Hansen “Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear” kind worked well ($2.9), as did Sinful Colors ($2.3 per bottle). I got all the colors of the rainbow plus black.

All important vaseline!

The procedure involved

  1. clean off prior nail polish with acetone and cotton swab
  2. paint nails white
  3. fill disposable cup with water to a level that I could easily dip even my thumb or pinky nail into
  4. unscrew all the caps, apply Vaseline around fingers from the tip up to the middle joint
  5.  drop in 7 or 8 drops of nail polish color concentrically (so at the center of the previous drop). After the first few drops, where the color of the nails polish diffuses a lot, the colors will become more solid
  6. Blow on it to dry the nail polish a little until it’s tacky, then take a skewer or toothpick and streak the design a little
  7. Pick an area I like and dip my nail into the polish, keep the nail down and swirl around until I get a clear patch big enough to bring my nail out. Avoid the walls of the cup or you’ll get a big white spot!
  8. Using paper towel and qtip, swap off nail polish on finger. This should come off easily if you applied vaseline. If not, it should wash off after acetone or in a day with normal water if you’re lazy
  9. Voila! Water marbled nails!

I also dabbed rainbows of colors onto my toenails (painted them white first) using part of a makeup sponge and tweezers.

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p.s. If you haven’t seen it yet, this is highly recommended. It’s a similar technique, but in academia it’s now called “hydrographic printing” 🙂